09 September 2016

No Meatless Link Sausages

... because there's at least some meat in each one.

  • Left unsaid in this article is the second-order aspect of responding to genius: Not just how to identify it, but how to respond once it's identified. And there's a disturbing corollary, too: If the "10,000 hours of practice" meme is wrong (and it surely is — every politician running for office today has more than 10,000 hours of practice at lying, and yet they're not fooling anyone but instead relying on their opponents being perceived as the "greater evil"), what does that say about those to whom we've delegated the coaching/teaching role in that practice?
  • Worse yet, there's the corresponding problem of the "successful" shaming of the arts, which after all are not amenable to standardized testing. Or career advice from octogenarians (but happy 50th anniversary to Star Trek anyway, even if recent efforts have largely been... disappointing).
  • Speaking of lying politicians, no morning-show host should ever "moderate" a serious election event ever again. Either that, or we've got to switch our "hosts" to those who work later in the day. Hey, that's not a bad idea: Jon Stewart and Larry Wilmore are currently unemployed, and so is (at least one of) Stephen Colbert...
  • Lots of copyright-related legal action across The Pond lately, much of it of direct concern to US authors.

    Most of the major pirate e-book repositories are now (purportedly) based in Europe, so the standard for when a link site contributes to infringement matters. In GS Media BV v. Sanoma Media BV, No. C–160/15 (08 Sep 2016), the European Court of Justice opined that holding a link site liable requires both that the link site obtain profit from the fact of hosting the links (and not from incidental activity or direct association with other profit-making activities; needless to say, US law is slightly different, requiring only that the infringing activity be a significant draw for general profitability) and that the link site be actually aware of the infringement and infringing material (related, but slightly different, factual inquiries). This is important to US authors and makes sending DMCA notices — even to Europe — more urgent: That's how one gives a link site, or whomever else, actual knowledge of both the infringement and the infringing material, so that the next author to come along isn't just shooting ostriches.

    And then there's the parody problem. US courts have largely gotten it wrong by overly restricting what constitutes a parody. The purportedly humorless Germans have done much better (official opinion auf deutsch (PDF), well-executed summary in English), primarily by avoiding the "target of" trap that Justice Souter fell into in 2Live Crew (and that has virtually no theoretical support in literary/arts scholarship) with the corollary that "satire" — if, that is, it is discernably different in principle — is not protected under Justice Souter's reasoning. Lurking behind this is a horrible mess arising from ex ante/ex post problems combined with serious retconning of "what did the artist intend?" that is even less amenable to judicial resolution than anything else in the arts... if that is possible. Regardless, the German approach is much closer to defensible.

  • And then there's the fashion industry. Leave aside its impulse to make me into its bloody billboard with obtrusive external branding (the label goes on the inside, thank you). Leave aside that so much of its output cannot be worn to actually do any work in (go ahead, Italian suit designers — wear a ventless jacket all day in court, with constant sit-stand-sit cycles and leaning and gesturing, and see if you don't pop a button). Forget the absence of pockets, usable forms of which are disappearing from men's clothing (look at polo-shirt selections of late) and never were in women's clothing. Just consider the selections available for women who aren't gymnasts or ballerinas (or, at minimum, don't play competitive tennis).

    And then ponder the gender issues raised by the alleged proportion of gay men in the fashion industries combined with their treatment of real women. Or not, because by now your head probably hurts from trying to resolve the contradictions.

  • Last, and far from least, a pissed-off note on current efforts to "encourage" use of two-factor authentication. If it actually provided better security in practice, it might be a better choice than secure-username-and-strong-password systems; there's very little evidence that actual users make it more secure, though. But crippling the purported better security by directly linking it to, say, the inherently insecure (and easy to forge/intercept) cell phone system and number isn't just insane and stupid and counterproductive — it's a transparent effort to create a further profit center with the ability to sell cell-phone data on, or misuse it to direct advertising directly to customers. I do not and will not participate in that sort of silliness.